Who remembers this influential Hartlepool headteacher?

Charles Gatenby.
Charles Gatenby.

Charles Alexander Gatenby made a very valuable contribution to the education of children in Hartlepool.

For 45 years - in the days before the 11-plus exam, school dinners and free milk - he was a teacher and headteacher.

Present day pupils of Elwick Road School have this former headmaster to thank for the arrangement of their working hours

Northern Daily Mail reporter

He taught in the days when a teacher’s wage was a very respectable £75 a year.

By the time he retired, he had shaped generations of Hartlepool doctors, lawyers and other professionals.

He was described as “a man the greater part of whose life has been devoted to the teaching and welfare of children.”

Charles first featured in the Northern Daily Mail in 1957 in a profile feature titled “From ‘little teacher’ to headmaster.”

We’re hoping to hear from anyone who has fond memories of learning under his tuition.

Our 1957 story told how the West Hartlepool-born man spent his own schooldays at the Stranton School, and then Church Street Public School, which was commonly known as Church Square School - and which was where he earned his nickname.

He became known as the “little teacher” when he was 14.

The Northern Daily Mail explained at the time: “This was given to him on becoming a monitor and combining minor teaching duties, for which he earned the princely sum of one shilling.”

After his time at Church Street, a year later, he was accepted as a pupil teacher at the school and taught for four years before entering Morray House training college in Edinburgh, where he studied for two years.

After becoming a teacher, he returned to Church Street to become an assistant master and taught practical mathematics as well as English.

His teaching history reads like a who’s who of schools in Hartlepool.

At one point, he joined the staff of the Organised Science School, which later became known to many as the Technical College.

Then he joined Oxford Street School, and later still joined Park Road Upper School.

It was not long after that when he and all the staff of that school transferred to the newly-built Elwick Road School.

And that was where, at the age of 40, he was appointed headmaster of the senior boys’ department, where he stayed until his retirement 25 years later.

He was also president of the Hartlepool branch of the NUT on three separate occasions and secretary for many years.

It was Charles who Elwick Road pupils had to thank for an earlier finish to their day’s schooling.

Thanks to him, they finished at 4pm instead of the previous 4.30pm, although they did have a longer morning session to make up for it.

This was also a man with interests outside of education, including a passion for almost every form of sport as well as reading, while television was “taken in small amounts”.

We would love to hear from people who can tell us more. Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk